The following section outlines some ideas for cutting costs on essential items and strategies for minimising your living expenses if you are on a tight budget. It is always a good idea when you are surviving on a limited income to shop around so you can get the most for your money.
- Reduce your spending on takeaway food. Bring your own lunch and cook meals at home.
- Use the microwave ovens in the Student Union building for free to heat up your lunch.
- Frozen supermarket meals are often a cheaper alternative.
- Only buy a book if it is an essential text, or if you believe that you will be disadvantaged in your course without it and borrowing a copy from the library is difficult.
- If possible, books labelled as "recommended reading" in the subject guide should be borrowed.
- Check the noticeboards outside your faculty office or the noticeboards on the ground floor of Union House for second-hand textbooks being sold by later year students. If you're buying a second-hand textbook, be certain that the book has the same title, is the same edition, and was published in the same year as the text book assigned for your subject. If in doubt, check with the lecturer or tutor for your subject.
- Melbourne University Bookshop will usually give a discount for textbooks over $30.
- Paper can be surprisingly expensive. Make sure you use both sides of the sheet for writing (or printing) draft versions of essay or assignments.
- Frequent printing of lecture notes can also add considerably to your stationery costs. (Remember: many of the student computer labs enforce a printing quota).
- Getting involved with the clubs and societies connected to your faculty or the Student Union is a great way of enjoying cheap activities.
- Check the Entertainment Guide (The EG) in The Age Newspaper on Fridays or Citysearch for information about free and cheap entertainment in and around Melbourne.
- There are also countless internet sites and blogs that provide up-to-date information on Melbourne's affordable cultural and nightlife activities that aren't advertised in the mainstream media.
- Members of the Student Union can borrow books and videos from the Rowden White Library (in the Student Union). DVDs and books are also available for loan in campus libraries and the many suburban public libraries around Melbourne for free.
- Check the Student Union web page for information about lunch-time concerts, special lectures, sporting events, club functions and other activities.
Conserve energy to lessen the costs of electricity and gas. Keeping warm in winter can be costly with large gas and electricity bills. To save money on bills and become more energy conscious:
- Visit the Choiceswitch website. While most people have a choice in who provides their utilities, people usually stay with the 'default' utility provider. The Choiceswitch website provides independent advice on who can provide the best deal for your needs. There is also advice on which companies provide 'green' energy options.
- Fill gaps in windows and under doors and make sure open fire places are covered when not in use to stop heat and money going up the chimney. Heavy, lined curtains on your windows can reduce heat loss through glass. Most Op Shops sell good curtains quite cheaply. Keep doors and windows closed when the heater is on.
- Don't leave heaters on overnight or when you're not at home. If your room is really cold, an electric blanket is a lot cheaper than a heater. Hot water bottles are even more economical body heaters.
- Beware of fan heaters, they may be small, but they use a lot of electricity - they will add substantially to each winter electricity bill.
- Turning off lights and appliances when you're not using them can also keep your bills down.
- Because most bills (such as bills for Electricity and Telephone calls) arrive only every few months the cost can "creep up on you". Ask the service provider whether you can pay for your bill by instalments, or on a monthly basis. It is then easier to keep track of your outlays. Gas, Electricity and Telephone providers may have payment schemes (sometimes called Easyway Payments) which allow you to pay amounts each fortnight or month.
- Health Care Card holders can get a reduction in their gas bill during the peak winter months. To receive a concession, the bill must be in the name of the Health Care Card holder.
- If all else fails, Student Financial Aid may be able to help by arranging short term loans to cover energy bills. Come in and talk to us if you're having problems.
- There are a wide variety of phone plans available. Carefully look at the contract/plan before falling in love with the phone - will it suit your needs? How much will it all cost over a year? Take the time to look around, research and get an idea of how the phone payments will fit into your budget.
- Check and compare the prices (and cheaper call times) for the various international call providers. International phone cards are available at most ethnic grocery stores and can save you money - but check the conditions first.
- Review your mobile phone use. Mobile phones are a common cause of debt. Prepay services are preferable as you can only use what you can afford and you are not locked into contracts that may not change even if your financial situation does.